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Ashcroft Announces $95 Million in Grants to Improve DNA Crime Analysis

PITTSBURGH (AP) - The Justice Department gave out almost $95 million in grants to increase DNA analysis that has helped solve crimes but faces huge backlogs, Attorney General John Ashcroft said Monday.

The grants are the first under a Bush administration initiative announced last year that seeks $1 billion during the next five years to bolster DNA testing of convicts and evidence and eliminate all state and federal DNA analysis backlogs.

There are now some 485,000 DNA samples pending nationwide from crime scenes and victims; as many as 300,000 samples from convicted criminals need to be processed, and as many as 1 million more convicts haven't submitted DNA samples, Ashcroft said.

DNA is the material contained in every cell that carries an individual's unique genetic code. It has become a vital tool in solving crimes and exonerating innocent people wrongly convicted, including some sentenced to death.

"DNA analysis helps identify the guilty, it helps vindicate the innocent, and at times, it can bring a sense of peace and justice to victims and their families even after a case has seemed to gone cold and hope was all that they had left," Ashcroft said.

The FBI's national DNA database includes 1.4 million profiles of convicted offenders. In 2002, that database provided almost 5,000 matches to samples taken from crime scenes, closing many previously unsolved cases and freeing police to pursue other crimes.

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